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Corporate Power on Full Display at Dem and GOP Conventions

Laura Bonham

In the past week, we have been witness to the spectacle of the Republican and Democratic national conventions, events where both parties leave no stone unturned in their attempts to gain the confidence of voting Americans. Perhaps the biggest and best opportunity during presidential campaigns for the parties to differentiate themselves from each other, but the similarities between the two conventions cannot be overlooked. 

Beyond the highly orchestrated ceremony, canned speeches, and attempts to show off their commitments to the grassroots and diversity, both parties have clearly spent huge sums to convince Americans that a vote for the other party’s candidates is a vote for the full-blown destruction of our American culture. 

Long ago both parties abandoned their grassroots and the attendant disruptions that made conventions exciting and interesting to watch. Today’s national delegates, comprised of elected officials and the Party faithful, are tasked with formalizing the selection of nominees for president and vice president, which is already well-decided long before the conventions take place.  Non-committed delegates are pressured to vote the “right” way for the sake of party unity, and the Party’s platform, which is largely ignored by its elected officials and candidates, is finalized. There is no spontaneity; both are equally boring. 

Dissident voices are squelched.  Ron Paul and his Libertarian Republican supporters were dissed at their convention where an unscripted moment of actual rebellion (and good TV) broke out on the floor. While many may disagree with their positions, not only do Libertarian Republicans remain true to their political principles, they have remained supporters of the Party. It is easy to understand their reaction at the convention, and the potential for them to abandon Romney for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.  

While there is little controversy within the Democratic Party this year, the party is on the same trajectory with their progressive wing, as demonstrated at their 2004 convention in Boston where party bosses subjected Kucinich delegates to vigorous verbal arm-twisting in an attempt to show unanimous solidarity for Kerry.  

By virtue of their wealth, titans of industry have always had more voice in our elections than the average individual.

Unable to secure a presence through the regular Machiavellian channels of party participation, Progressive Democrats of America has sponsored a shadow convention for the past two national conventions, after their organizing convention in Boston during the Democratic convention in 2004. One can only wonder how many progressive Democratic voters will abandon Obama for Green Party candidate Jill Stein or the newly forming Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson. 

But, the most disturbing similarity between the two is direct corporate sponsorship, and the more obscure soft corporate funding through their respective host committees. While the GOP Convention website proudly boasts their corporate sponsors on their homepage, the Democrats have also accepted corporate funding while trying to maintain the sheen of grassroots funding. Corporate funders for the GOP include Google, Microsoft, Wellcare, Walmart, Chevron and an assortment of energy companies among others. Democratic sponsors include AT&T, Bank of America, Duke Energy, Time Warner Cable, UnitedHealth Group, Piedmont Natural Gas, and US Airways. Coca Cola and Wells Fargo have covered their bets by sponsoring both conventions.  

Corporate tentacles are more entwined in our political process than simply making the massive ad buys paid for by undisclosed sources sanctioned by the Citizens United ruling. Corporate sponsorship of the Republican and Democratic conventions has long been policy, despite attempts to curb the practice due to the clear conflict of interest. This year’s sponsors come from the healthcare, communications, oil, gas and energy, banking, automotive and housing industries – all of which have benefited from recent legislation under both Democratic and Republican administrations and are likely in line to receive additional benefits in the next administration, whichever party comes to power. 

We cannot ignore the connections that wealthy patrons and their corporations have on our political process and who gets elected in this country. By virtue of their wealth, titans of industry have always had more voice in our elections than the average individual. Their influence has led to the election of politicians who support their corporate worldview and appoint judges.  

Over time, the doctrine of corporate personhood became a reality as corporations – artificial entities created by government – gained inherent human rights through legislation and the courts. Because the Supreme Court decided in Buckley v. Valeo that money is speech and in prior cases that a corporation is a person, every attempt made by government to control money in politics has resulted in loopholes through which obscene amounts of money pours.  

For over a decade, proponents of small “d” democracy have been working to limit the power of corporations. Immediately following the Citizens United decision, they came together to form the Move to Amend Coalition. Recognizing that corporations can and have benefited society in many ways, have an important role in a vibrant economy, and are entitled to privileges to protect themselves, Move to Amend is calling for a Constitutional amendment which clearly states that corporations are not people, are not entitled to unalienable human rights, that money is not speech and can be regulated in campaigns.  

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Laura Bonham

Laura Bonham

Laura Bonham is a member of Move to Amend’s National Leadership team and a contributing wordsmith in Move to Amend’s communication department. She is a community organizer, former candidate for state office, and a small business owner.

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